Institutes & Facilities

Specialized institutes affiliated with the College of the Environment offer our students additional research support and academic opportunities. Each institute maintains facilities that provide training in experiment methodology and the use of advanced laboratory equipment. In collaboration with outside institutions and community organizations, these institutes also offer College of the Environment students access to real-world research projects via a variety of paid and unpaid internship opportunities.

Institute for Watershed Studies

The Institute for Watershed Studies (IWS) exists to support research on freshwater lakes, streams, and wetlands. Affiliated with College of the Environment, IWS provides support to all Western faculty and students with an interest in watershed problems.

Institute for Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry

The Institute of Environmental Toxicology (IET) seeks to be a regional partner and national leader in environmental toxicology, risk assessment and management, research, and education. Like the College's other institutes, IET also provides training and research opportunities to affiliated students and faculty, and offers information and guidance to the public, industry, and government.

Spatial Institute

The Spatial Institute is an interdisciplinary center for spatial research in Environmental Sciences, Environmental Studies, Geography, Resilience, and related fields. The Institute provides opportunities for collaboration within the College, across Western, and with the broader community. The Spatial Institute supports both undergraduate and graduate-level research and instruction. Recent and current research projects include GIS, Remote Sensing, GPS, Cartography, Interactive Mapping, and Disaster Response.

In addition to affiliated faculty and research projects, the Spatial Institute maintains spatial data servers providing data both on-campus and online as well as the Spatial Analysis Lab and related web site which provide students, faculty, and the larger academic community with information regarding spatial data resources, tools, and other assistance. A GIS minor, GIS certificate, and suite of courses are available through the College of the Environment. The Western Map Collection (a National Map Repository) is considered a major collection in the United States and houses over 250,000 maps and 1,000 atlases.

Resilience Institute

The Resilience Institute facilitates scholarship, education, and practice on reducing social and physical vulnerability to natural hazards. Hazards like earthquakes, floods, climate change, hurricanes, and landslides can have devastating impacts on communities, causing deaths, injuries, destruction of property, and the fraying of social connections. Furthermore, they can create and expand social inequality.

The Resilience Institute was established as a research and development component of Western Washington University's undergraduate minor in Disaster Risk Reduction and emphasis in Environmental Justice and Community Resilience.

Our efforts are aimed at developing a research agenda to facilitate greater disaster risk awareness and reduction; support participatory disaster risk reduction processes in locally, regionally, and internationally; and provide students and recent graduates with opportunities to apply their learning and support community needs. Such work is part of a wider strategy for building community resilience.

Institute for Energy Studies

The College of the Environment is collaborating with the College of Business and Economics and the College of Sciences and Engineering in an innovative new program designed to meet the needs of a rapidly expanding clean energy economy. Currently, the Institute for Energy Studies (IES) offers a portfolio of programs that include both a BA in Energy Policy & Management and a BS in Energy Science & Technology, as well as Energy Concentrations in the Electric (energy) Engineering BS (ABET-certified), and Business & (energy) Sustainability BA, and finally minors in Energy Policy and Energy Science. Also, College of the Environment graduate degrees can be pursued with an energy focus in both the MS and the MA. 

Students can work with faculty, WWU Facilities engineers, and external experts on energy efficiency projects via the IES Campus as a Lab initiative. The IES also provides research opportunities for affiliated faculty and students in topics such as renewable energy and energy efficiency. Program participants will gain core competencies in energy-related science, technology, policy, economics and business, and have opportunities to participate in energy research with nationally recognized faculty-mentors.

Sustainability Engagement Institute

Western's Sustainability Engagement Institute develops educational opportunities and systems-change for a more sustainable, just future. Among its many responsibilities, the institute convenes the President’s Sustainability Council in order to progress the goals established by the university’s Sustainability Action Plan.


In addition to our institutes, College of the Environment houses a number of laboratories, where faculty members train students in the environmental sciences as well as to conduct research on a variety of topics.

Institute of Watershed Studies intern wading into Upper Bagley Lake to collect a water sample.